Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Author Spotlight with Jeffrey Von Glahn
I had an amazing interview with a psychotherapist, Jeffrey Von Glahn. He is a member of the Real Lives Team, a sub-group of Books Go Social.
Tell us a little about yourself
When I was about 14 or 15, I wanted to study the Mind. I wasn’t all that sure what the “Mind” was, but it sounded fascinating. At that time, though, I thought that only psychiatrists did that and that you had to be a genius to be one. Since I didn’t consider myself a genius, nor did anyone else seem to think so, I ditched that idea. After getting an undergraduate degree in physics, I decided I wanted to study human nature instead of physical nature. So I switched to psychology and became a therapist. Best decision I ever made. If I believed in reincarnation, I would want to come back as one. It’s been more exciting than I ever imagined.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
(I’ve changed this question to: When did you first consider that you might be a writer?) When I was in high school, once in a while I received high praise from teachers about an essay I had written. At the time, I couldn’t understand why they said that, in part, because in all subjects I was an average student. The key seemed to be if I found the stated theme of the essay interesting enough, creative impulses I didn’t know I had started operating on their own. I was also aware that I would never have thought of that particular topic on my own.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My only book is Jessica: The autobiography of an infant.
The story was so unique it had to be told. Since I was her therapist, the one who had a front-row seat and saw it all, who else could write it. Besides, there were about 200 hours of audio recordings to listen to. It took me 20 years to write the book, and it took the first eight for me to realize, aided by rejection letters from agents, that even though it’s a true story it has to be written in the style of fiction; i.e.; the appeal is to the reader’s emotions.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Interesting question; not sure I know how to answer it. Here’s what I seem to focus on. I try to have the next sentence clarify further whatever was hinted at in the last sentence and/or needed to be more fully explained. That it is not a formula for how to write fast. It is how to describe/ capture in words, a person’s experiencing. From my many years as a therapist, I’m quite good at sensing what a person is experiencing; i.e., what’s there but not being said.
What are your current projects?
At present, I’m focused on straightening out the theory and practice of psychotherapy. I concluded – though I’m certainly not the only one – that after 120 years it still doesn’t understand itself. Guess what? My major reason for thinking that is because it has yet to understand the client’s experiencing well enough. I seem to be finally getting recognition. I’ve been invited to submit a chapter for a book that’s about “re-envisioning” the theory and practice of psychotherapy.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
In writing for the public; i.e., in the style of fiction, the greatest challenge is how to provide just enough detail to engage the reader’s mind. The human mind is happiest when it has information to process. It tends to shut down, however, when too much info is provided, as in “telling,” though in school that of course is necessary. I think it was Hemingway who said something like: Writing is very easy. All you have to do is to cross out the right words.
Who designed the covers?
The cover was designed by iUniverse, based on my suggestion. Fortunately, I own the rights to it.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
My client’s basic problem was internal. As a friend of mine said, “Too bad she wasn’t an axe murderess.” In her words, she didn’t have a “me.” She made her way through life by doing whatever she sensed was expected of her. When asked a question that had “you” in it, she always gave an answer she hoped would end the conversation. Every time I arrived at a better description of her internal experiencing, I had to go back and re-write all previous descriptions. In her therapy, she discovered that as a newborn her mother’s hurried behavior and not too gentle handling made her feel that the needing, wanting part of her was dangerous. So at the time, her survival instincts said, “Stay away from it!”
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Try to never miss an opportunity to re-read, especially before going to sleep. Your brain will thank you the next time you sit down to write for giving it info to work on during the night. Also, when I’m feeling ambivalent about writing and not sure if I need a break or my mind is rebelling at another attempt at a passage that I’m struggling with, I sit in my writing chair, place my fingertips on the keyboard, and often find that if my brain could speak, it would say, “About time you did that!
What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Nature/science/human interest programs. Rarely go to the theater, unless it’s a film like Lincoln or Hidden Figures.
Connect with Jeffrey at Twitter
You can buy Jeffrey's book at the link below.